How I Got This Body: The Irish Pub Manager Who Gave Up Fish and Chips and Started Running

All photographs courtesy Dave Cahill.

Welcome to How I Got This Body, our look at some of the amazing things the human body is capable of and the Washingtonians who put their bodies to the test. Want to share your transformation story? Email

Who I am: David Cahill, 45, general manager of Ireland’s Four Courts, from Arlington

What inspired me: I weighed 215 pounds the year my daughter was born. I was working a lot of evenings at the restaurant and had got into the habit of eating late. Chicken wings, burgers, and fish and chips were always on my menu. At that time in my life I was not eating well and getting little to no exercise. My life changed when my wife, Fiona, went back to work. I had to get up early with the kids and take care of them. My son, Darragh, and daughter, Aoife, had lots of energy and I found it exhausting trying to keep up with them. I knew I had make a change. One day at the restaurant, I was checking in a produce order and I had to move a 50 pound bag of onions. That is when a light went off. I realized that at my weight I was carrying this bag of onions (an extra 50 pounds) around every day.  I imagined how much energy I would have if I dropped that weight.

How I got started: My first step was to buy a jogging stroller and start running slowly while pushing the kids to the playgrounds or where ever I had to go.  I started setting running targets that focused on time rather than distance. I would run for two minutes and walk for two minutes and I gradually increased the amount over time. It took about two months until I was running the entire time.

David Cahill at the Four Courts Four Miler, a Pacers Running race that ends at Cahill’s pub.

How I exercise now: I run at least 30 miles a week and I coach recreational soccer in Arlington at least twice a week all year round. My weekly regimen depends on upcoming races and I set a plan around them. If I am training for short races, I focus on running intervals a few weeks out.  However, I always maintain a good base, usually four to five miles a day during week days and a long run of ten or more miles on Sunday morning. Recently, I introduced CorePower Yoga to my weekly regimen and I am finding it very beneficial to my running and new lifestyle.

How I changed my diet: In the beginning, I had to be very disciplined. I cut out all fried food, bread, and soda. I got out of the habit of eating after 8 PM. I introduced fruit, vegetables, and lean protein for breakfast and lunch. I made sure to drink water during the day. I rarely eat red meat now and have replaced it with grilled fish instead. For breakfast, I stay away from bacon and sausage and now typically eat scrambled eggs and spinach. For lunch, I usually have a salad. As an Irishman, I still love potatoes but now I do not add butter!

I realized that at my weight I was carrying this bag of onions (an extra 50 pounds) around every day.  I imagined how much energy I would have if I dropped that weight.

How long it took: Within two years of running I had dropped 50 lbs and was running times I had not run since I was a teenager. Last year, I ran the Boston Marathon and weighed in at the start line at 165 lbs.

How I feel now: Losing weight, adjusting to a healthier life style, and finding a love for running have given me a completely different outlook on life. Mentally, these lifestyle changes help me clear my mind and better process my thoughts. I have developed great friendships from running and love having the energy to do what I want now with the kids. 

One piece of advice: The best advice I got was to consider what I was doing as a lifestyle change.  I would advise someone wanting to make a change to set realistic goals, not look for instant results (i.e put away the scale), and never compare yourself to others.



Associate Editor

Caroline Cunningham joined Washingtonian in 2014 after moving to the DC area from Cincinnati, where she interned and freelanced for Cincinnati Magazine and worked in content marketing. She currently resides in College Park.